A strange sight would have met your eyes, were you to have entered the kitchen of Tea Head Quarters on the morning of the 10th day. I couldn’t get the stamps off the ruined envelopes, so there they sat, limp and discoloured on the draining board to dry while a bowl-full of cake mixture bubbles along contentedly from its prefered spot on the toaster.

We resent the cake again, this time using surgical tape and industrial quantities of string to stop the lids from erupting, while we completed the final stages of the recipe.

Delicious apple cake enjoyed with a cup of tea

After all the excitement of the last few days it’s nice to sit down with a piece of cake and a cup of tea. The end product is delicious, even if the smell has pervaded the entire house for over a week previously.

Teabacks hung out to dry on a washing line to save money

What lengths will you go to to save money during a recession?


One of the best ways to enjoy all the frills of afternoon tea without the expense is DIY. We have been reviewing hotels and tearooms on our website for the last 3 years but still some of our best experiences have been in people’s homes:

Invite a few friends round, either informally over the phone, or make special invitation cards and post them with themed stamps, or tea-stained envelopes.

Dust off your old tea set from the attic or buy a mismatched assortment of pots and cups from a charity shop. Ask around and see if anyone has got three-tiered cake stands, silver sugar tongs, or fancy teapots.

Decorate the table imaginatively – don’t be afraid of the Kitsch, the Naff and the Downright Ridiculous. Gingham, flowers, bunting, silverware, portraits of the Queen. Anything goes.

Ask your friends to make or buy cakes, scones, sandwiches, strawberries, clotted cream, crumpets etc.

For more ideas, and some interesting recipes to try at home have a look at www.noveltea.co.uk.

Peacock’s, Ely.

April 13, 2011


The Waterfront,



CB7 4AU.


01353 661 100


Afternoon tea in Peacocks tearoom, Ely, Cambridgeshire

Lily still smiles in her sleep, thinking about those crumpets...

Natives of sleepy Ely, had they been casing the waterfront at 4 o’clock that late autumn afternoon, might have permitted a raised eyebrow or two at the sight of a pair of flustered tea-goers haring through the village in search of their last repast of the day. We rounded the final corner at a brisk trot, Amos in the lead and Lily – a few heads behind – bringing up a dignified rear. Arriving, slightly out of breath (Amos with just a hint of perspiration on his brow) it was clear that we were to be rewarded for our efforts in heavy coin.

The fame of Peacocks has gone before it. From the apple-pie cottage exterior to the homely plum-pudding welcome we received within, it was every bit the tea-time oasis we had been led to expect, and after our little canter earlier, felt vindicated in doing full justice to all they had to offer.

Amos fell about devouring a couple of hearty fresh scones with his usual gusto while Lily opted for perfectly toasted crumpets – the butter from which is smeared in greasy fingermarks all over the original notes – and a pot of ‘Good Luck’ blended tea, which we can cheerfully recommend. We found it to be busy without being crowded, warm, softly lit and tastefully decorated. The selection of Tea is comprehensive to the point of bewilderment although not unreasonably priced. Yes, the service was ever-so slightly 4 o’clock and we wouldn’t choose lace tablecloths for our front rooms but it’s hard to find fault with hosts who have catered so perfectly to your needs and we left, refreshed, in fine fetter, another couple of satisfied punters.


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Number 14, London

April 6, 2011

Number 14,

Holland St,


London W8 4LT

Delicious afternoon tea at number 14 holland street london, including an array of gluten free cakes

An instant hit: Number 14 is to afternoon tea what waffles are to Belgium

Why oh why oh why oh why aren’t there more tea rooms like this one?

Nestled away in the tranquil mews of lesser trod Kensington, Holland Street is a wisteria-festooned oasis of cobble-streeted calm in the very heart of London. Just by pressing your face against up the glass and staring in wonder at the beautiful array of cakes and patisseries you can’t help but fall in love. As soon as we crossed the threshold of No. 14 we were besotted.

A single table – surrounded by plush antique thrones – occupies the middle of a tiny and very artistically arranged drawing room. There’s a small counter and an enormous silver samovar and that’s about it, save for a large communal sugar bowl which occupies the centre of the table.

We were joined by a Chinese-American mother and nanny, 3 Parisian socialites and what we took to be two gay Dutch golf pros. As one might expect from such an illustrious clientele, the whole shop has been lavished with exquisite taste and extraordinary attention to detail. Even the weird metal spatulas and quirky spherical cups are beautiful to behold (and no less of an art form to drink from).

We opted for gluten-free mud pie and (for the sake of balance) an invigorating green tea from which we were able to foretell from the leaves that we would visit very soon and very often. If the people of Britain weren’t being constantly and systematically insulted by inferior establishments what happy times these would be. See you there!

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